Pakistan has unblocked Wikipedia in the South Asian market, three days after the online encyclopedia was censored in the nation over noncompliance with removing what the local regulator deemed as “sacrilegious” content.
Shehbaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, directed the unblocking order, calling the censorship on Wikipedia “not a suitable measure to restrict access to some objectionable contents/sacrilegious matter on it.”
“The unintended consequences of this blanket ban, therefore, outweigh its benefits,” his office wrote in a letter, which was shared publicly on Twitter.
Sharif has also constituted a cabinet committee that will include ministers for IT and Telecom, Law and Justices, Information and Broadcasting, Commerce and Communications” on matters related to Wikipedia and other online content, including exploring and recommending alternative technical measures for removal or blocking access to objectionable content.
The Pakistani telecom regulator “degraded” access to Wikipedia last Wednesday and warned that it would fully block the site in 48 hours if certain content weren’t removed from the site. The regulator had asserted that Wikipedia representatives weren’t acknowledging the order. On Friday, Wikipedia was banned in the country.
The South Asian nation’s move to block the website received wide backlash and global media attention.
“We hope that the Pakistan government joins us in a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restores access to @Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects promptly, so that the people of Pakistan can continue to receive and share knowledge with the world,” Wikimedia, the parent firm of Wikipedia, said on Saturday.
The English version of Wikipedia receives over 50 million page views per month from Pakistan, Wikimedia said.
“The Wikimedia Foundation does not make decisions around what content is included on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained. This is by design to ensure that articles are the result of many people coming together to determine what information should be presented on the site, resulting in richer, more neutral articles. We respect and support the editorial decisions made by the community of editors around the world,” it added.